General Motors executive vice president of design Ed Welburn told CarAdvice at this week's 2014 Detroit motor show that future Holden product can still be designed locally if it isn’t produced locally.
“If we’re not manufacturing there [in Australia], and we still sell Holdens there, what do you think? Yeah we can," Welburn said.
"As long as the designers and engineers really understand what our customers in Australia are looking for in a product, it’ll work.”
Prior to December’s announcement that Holden will cease manufacturing cars in Australia from late 2017, the company’s Port Melbourne-based design team had been confirmed to have begun work on the next Holden Commodore due that year. Asked whether that project could continue regardless of where the car was manufactured, Welburn confirmed that a Commodore replacement would have to involve Australian designers.
“All I’ll say is that if a new Holden [Commodore replacement] is developed, that team has got to be part of its development.
“They know the market better than anyone. They have to be involved in it; it just can’t have one of our [global] teams … develop a Holden without the engagement of that [Australian] team there.”
The global design chief’s counterpart, General Motors consolidated international operations chief Stefan Jacoby, also confirmed to Australian media that the next Holden large car will still be called Commodore, despite it being imported.
“Yes we are planning to produce the Commodore and there will be a Commodore out of the portfolio of General Motors for the Australian market,” he said, listing as options for where the car may be built as “Europe, Korea, the USA … we have a lot of options actually”.
Welburn believes that the easiest part is the local design team being able to produce a good-looking product in the next-generation Commodore.
“I know they [the local design team] can do a beautiful Holden product … I’m confident, that’s easy.
“I think not only our designers and engineers but those in marketing and planning stay close to the pulse of what people are looking for, I think better now than they have in the past.”
Welburn also reiterated his commitment to the Australian design centre, explaining that the centre is working on designs for multiple brands within General Motors, some of which will be revealed in the coming year.
“Design is going strong … it will be there, it will be an integrated part of our whole global design machine.
“It needs to be and not only are they responsible for the aesthetics of many things in the Holden brand, they’re a creative team so they’re working on Buicks, they’re working on Chevrolets, they’re contributing to some GMC work.
“You’ll see in the next year … we need to do something special to help the world see some of the work they’re doing that will be unveiled at motor shows around the world, not necessarily as Holdens, but, you know, under one of our brands or a couple of our brands.”
It is understood that the Holden design centre in Port Melbourne has been unaffected by the manufacturing closure, continuing with the work being conducted prior to the announcement.
It was believed that the next Holden Commodore will be built on a stretched Chevrolet Malibu front-wheel-drive platform and twinned with a Chinese-market sedan badged as a Buick, which Welburn refers to as a brand the local team is working for. While it is highly unlikely the next Commodore will be built in China for export, it could also be built as a Chevrolet Impala replacement in the United States for our market. The more likely scenario is, however, that Holden will utilise the Opel Insignia for its next generation Commodore that comes with all-wheel-drive availability and OPC performance versions (read more here).
For serious V8 buyers, Holden will then likely fill the performance void left by the rear-wheel-drive Commodore with a right-hand-drive next-generation Camaro, as Ford is doing by introducing the Mustang to Australia.